On the Gridiron: Philadelphia Eagles Embrace Virtual Workflows for Efficient Regular-Season Strategy
Remote applications have kept the content team on schedule
Many professional sports have opted for a return to play inside a sanitized bubble. Not the NFL. Without skipping a beat, the league is soldiering on with regular-season games in all 30 stadiums across the country. Similar to our At the Ballpark series, On the Gridiron examines the new routines, habits, and production philosophies of in-venue personnel on any given Thursday, Sunday, or Monday.
As professionals around the globe enter the seventh consecutive month of working from home, virtual conferences and activities have become the status quo. While some companies have stumbled and lost momentum during the transition away from physical meetings, others have capitalized on this new way of life. The Philadelphia Eagles, for example, have increased productivity and timeliness by buying into this new norm and relying on effective communication and collaboration.
“A lot of our content strategy is about maintaining [elements] that you do well and adapting to things that you can’t do in the same way,” says Eric Long, VP, content and production, Philadelphia Eagles. “We’re also leaning into [working in a virtual setting] as much as possible by using it as an opportunity to be more efficient.”
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Under New Constraints: Virtual Applications Overcome Facility Restrictions
Back in training camp, operating in an at-home setting was a foreign concept. Now crew members have become veterans in overcoming the physical distance that COVID-19 requirements have placed on the staff. For the team, working in a virtual capacity has kept everyone accountable, improved the overall efficiency of the work created and has helped turn a dire situation into a productive one.
“I think we’re taking the hand that we were dealt and making the most of it,” says Long. “Our staff is a lot more accustomed to things like jumping on a Zoom meeting. In the past, we were pulling people in different directions. It has been a lot easier to keep that flow of communication going and making sure that we’re using our time in the best way that we possibly can.”
Besides Zoom, other technologies are being put into play to help collect a week’s worth of information. It has been a huge benefit for the 10-12 staffers who work alongside Long at the practice facility.
“We’re using these virtual workflows within the building,” he explains. “We’ve built three spaces that are essentially 8×10 rooms that have a robotic camera, a return monitor, a speaker, a boom mic, and a monitor behind the person so can swap out the backdrop. We’re able to control everything without any latency since we’re working on our own network with solid connectivity.”
In addition to better internal conversations, COVID-19 has indirectly resulted in a better product. With less hustle and bustle, the crew is able to refine operations and capture content with higher quality.
“There are fewer players [available] every day, and there are good things that come out of that,” Long notes. “The quality of the conversations is better; we were never previously able to capture everything since there was so much going on at one time. Now we’re able to centralize [our content]: if you go to our website, you can basically see and hear everything that took place in the building that day. From a fan’s perspective, I think it’s a little bit better experience.”
Although these new methods of production have been seen as a temporary solution, Long envisions long-term staying power as the industry moves forward.
“In the long term,” he opines, “there’s going to be some really positive things that come out of this. We’ve been able to understand how to look at things much differently than we ever would have before.”
Uniting the Flock: Digital Content Brings Together Regional Fans
During any offseason period, fans can feel a bit disconnected, but, when the league canceled all preseason games, the organization wanted to do whatever it could to kindle fans’ passion. From the get-go, a new training-camp show was developed, and production began once the players hit the practice field.
“Normally, we have a small number of fans that are able to be at the facility to attend training camp in person,” says Long, “but the focus turned into providing a solid experience after knowing that it wasn’t going to be the same. We live-streamed the first 20- to 30-minute portion of practice and elements like live commentary and multiple camera angles. We also did a lot of daily studio programming with player interviews and recaps of what was happening on the field.”
As the regular season approached, the content team was poised to bring the fans even closer together after the first two home games were played without fans. This Sunday, a total of 7,500 fans will be allowed at Lincoln Financial Field, but fans who aren’t able to get in will be able to enjoy a full slate of digital amenities, including a 30-minute pregame show and an hour postgame show.
“We have a very heavy regional fanbase,” Long notes, “but we also have a lot of fans throughout the nation and the world. We took the initiative of bringing the best content to Eagles fans everywhere. On our website or our app on game days, we’re aggregating the best of our social-media feeds or highlights and providing commentary. It’s not meant to be a replacement for being in the stadium because there’s nothing quite like being in the stadium, but, if you’re watching from afar, you feel disconnected, or you don’t have access to the game [on TV] in your market, we can still keep you plugged in.”
To push out some of this content, the team is leveraging material recorded and captured during the early half of the season. One primary instance was an abbreviated version of the franchise’s annual Media Day photoshoot, which takes place during the training camp and preseason months.
“We actually were able to conduct a miniature version of our Media Day shoot,” Long says. “We targeted any new acquisitions, draft picks, and players who changed their number or have a more significant role than they had last year. Based on the way that the league set it up, we were also shooting for TV networks and taking care of little things like head shots.
“We were trying to satisfy a lot of different platforms with seven people,” he continues. “Everybody wore a lot of [different production] hats, but it was really successful.”
The Ones Who Get It Done: Notable Names of Eagles’ Production Team
If you’ve ever had the chance to live or spend time in the greater Philadelphia area, you’d have no problem realizing that “The Birds” mean a lot to the city and that the letters “E-A-G-L-E-S” are some of the first uttered by kids. For any given game, the production team understands that sentiment, and that’s why the increased load of content produced by Long and his entire staff is keeping fans as devoted as ever.
“Organizationally, I have a lot of really great people that I work with,” says Long. “[AV Engineer] David Sullivan is the brains behind the operation and is bringing everything to life. [Content Producer] Alessandra Lane and [Live Events Manager Kelly Rafferty] have really made our videoboard show what it is. And there are other people throughout the team that have helped figure this season out and drive it forward, including Director of Production Stacy Kelleher, [Content & Production Manager] Ray Doyle, Director of Digital and Social Samantha Wood, [Digital Platforms Manager] Julie Bacanskas, and Director of Digital Technology Tanmay Patel. Lastly, our leadership here – [Chairman/CEO] Jeffrey Lurie, President Don Smolenski, and SVP, Media and Marketing, Jen Kavanagh — have been tremendously supportive.”
The Philadelphia Eagles return to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, Oct. 18 to host the Baltimore Ravens at 1 p.m. ET.